MANILA - Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Sunday urged the public to share and listen to the "human stories" that will give face to the thousands killed amid the government's anti-narcotics crackdown.
Tagle said relatives of those killed in the drug war, especially the innocent ones, must be allowed to tell their stories, along with drug addicts who have recovered.
"To understand the situation better, we need not only statistics but also human stories... Let their stories be told, let their human faces be revealed," the archbishop said in a pastoral letter out at Mass services nationwide.
Tagle's statement comes after the war on drugs left at least 91 people dead in 7 days -- the highest death toll tallied by the campaign in a week.
Among those killed were 32 people in Bulacan and Kian Lloyd Delos Santos, a Grade 11 student in Caloocan.
Tagle said the Archdiocese of Manila is willing to host a dialogue for all sectors to chart a common path to solving the drug problem.
"Given the complexity of the issues, no single individual, group or institution could claim to have the only right response. We need one other. We cannot disregard," Tagle said.
"The illegal drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue. It is a humanitarian concern that affects all of us," he added.
Tagle also enjoined parishes to commit anew to the Manila archdiocese's drug rehabilitation program in partnership with the local government and police.
He also urged the faithful to offer prayers for those slain in the drug war, their families and killers for 9 days from August 21 to 29.
"Let us conquer evil with good (Romans 12:21). Let us save the lives of people most vulnerable to drug dependency: the youth, the poor and unemployed," he said.
"Words of solidarity without tears and acts of compassion are cheap."
The Duterte administration has many times defended its drug war against critics, saying reported figures -- from 7,000 to 9,000 -- were overblown.
Recent PNP data show that a total of 3,451 drug personalities were killed in anti-drug operations from July 1, 2016 to July 26, 2017.
The PNP also said that out of the 12,833 homicide cases from July 1, 2016 to June 16, 2017, 2,098 deaths were drug-related and 2,535 not drug-related. A total of 8,200 homicide cases were under investigation "with motives to be determined," the PNP said.